Could An Advisor Community Form Around A PDF?

How can you ever hope to have a conversation when most of your content is locked up in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) files?


That’s been the taunt from me and other people like me to mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketers for the last few years. Breaking the PDFs wide open and distributing the content within was the only path to "conversation" that we envisioned.

But check out an app that I’ve been experimenting with. The premise of Readmill (for the iPhone and iPad only currently) is that each ebook or PDF can be a self-contained social network.

Here’s an expansion on the generic value of the idea, from the FastCoLabs blog post, which is where I learned about it last week:

“While most e-readers allow you to share passages or links to the book you are reading, and sites like Goodreads let you share what you’ve read, their implementations treat the book and the discussions around them as separate collections. Worse, these apps force users to venture into the distracting world of the open Internet when they want to share, making it hard to stay focused on reading.”

With an ebook or PDF uploaded to Readmill (online or via the app), iPhone readers can highlight a passage on the page and comment on it from within the book. Other readers of the same document can read the comments and add their own thoughts.

Is That All There Is?

Like you, I’ve participated in my share of content marketing campaigns featuring whitepapers, reports, ebooks, etc. as the deliverable. Sure, financial advisors responded, jumped through whatever hoops that were required (there’s less of that nowadays, thankfully), took the download and left as quickly as they came.

The process is always a bit of a letdown.

So, what did you think? How did you like that PDF? I’ve always wished that there was an unobtrusive way to follow up with those who downloaded.

This is the promise of the Readmill app: It can capture readers’ reactions, questions and criticisms, with the feedback adding to the value of the original document. (There’s no confusing the original piece with the comments, I hasten to add for my Compliance friends.)

I’m intrigued by how this could be used with the broad "advisor community." There are a few advisor communities online—LinkedIn groups, professional association sites, standalone forums and even ad hoc communities that can be found frequently commenting on publication Websites.

But none offers this utility. Could a piece of advisor-worthy content delivered in PDF and distributed using Readmill bring advisors together as sort of a quickly coalescing, friction-free book club reviewing a whitepaper on alternative investing, for example?

To advisors the benefit of participation is discussion with like-minded colleagues. To the PDF provider it's listening, learning and maybe even weighing in with follow-up questions.

A Demonstration

To get an idea of how Readmill works, I’ve uploaded a 14-page PDF—a free excerpt from the David Meerman Scott book News Jacking—highlighted it in three places and made a few comments.

In the first screenshot, you’re seeing the line I highlighted and then my comment. Others could add their comments to mine or create new comments elsewhere.


The second screenshot shows the prompt for feedback or sharing at the completion of the book.


I hope you can find some time to explore Readmill. Download the app. Then search for the Rock The Boat Demo. Add a few comments and let us all (or at least me, privately) know what you think about the experience.

This is probably too early and there’s some work to do before a Readmill content distribution could be ready to go. Would advisors’ comments have to be archived? Is archiving even possible? Most asset managers would likely feel more comfortable with a private label version library. I wouldn't think that this or the archiving would be a showstopper because Readmill makes the API available. Adoption would require promotion and use by more than one firm.

I could get worked up about this. Could you?